One of those big fronts was coming through from the northwest back in August. While we were out at the Swimming Hole squeezing the last few drops of daylight before the mosquitoes came out, we could hear the muted rumble of thunder and see the tops of the cloud banks light up briefly. Had we been at sea, we would have battened down the hatches at Brownspur.
Before supper, I checked the e-mail and cut off the compooter, because it’s not a good idea to use these things during storms, I understand. We closed the windows and doors upstairs and in the Store, our guesthouse, and sat down to eat. By the time we finished, the thunder was almost continuous, and lightning flashes illuminated the yard.
Adam went out the garage door on the west side, while I headed out the front door, stepped off the porch, and walked out in the front yard, facing north. The rain hadn’t hit yet, but the lightning flashes were spectacular, and thunderclaps boomed right behind the flashes. I heard his pickup crank up in a moment, and he pulled through the driveway, stopped closest to me, and hollered, “Come on!”
I hustled across the yard to the tune of a close bolt strike, and jumped in the truck. He accelerated out to the blacktop, then turned off on a gravel road which headed exactly northwest. Just a few yards down the gravel, he stopped, cut the engine and lights off, and rolled the windows down. “Boy, this is gonna be a great one!” he exulted.
I couldn’t help but remember that when this kid was maybe three or four years old, he was terrified of thunder and lightning, to the point that he’d come get in bed with Betsy and me when a storm came through at night, as they so often do. This went on for a year or so, until one night when I stayed up to watch the late news and weather. A front was forecast to come through during the night, with some rough weather in it. As I cut off the TV after the sports, and went to put the cat out, I noticed that lightning flashes were already over the river, 10 miles away. An idea hit me.
I slipped on jeans and a sweatshirt, woke Adam up and wrapped him in a quilt, snagged a sack of gingersnaps and a couple of root beers on my way through the kitchen, and loaded us into the pickup. I drove a couple miles south, then turned west onto the rise of a railroad dummy line, with a completely clear view of the countryside across the cotton fields. Cutting off the engine and lights, I popped open a root beer, offered my son a gingersnap, and pointed. “Let’s watch,” I suggested.
We did that. Lightning bolts flashed from the clouds to the ground for 25 miles of western sky, slowly advancing toward us. Now and then, lightning streaks would sparkle like horizontal spider webs encompassing easily 15 miles of the front. We saw fuzzy-looking greenish-yellow balls of lightning bounce crazily between clouds. The thunder crashed and boomed in a symphony as the front advanced toward us. It was beautiful.
The first raindrops hit the windshield as we finished the last root beer and the last gingersnap. Adam was sound asleep before we got back to the house. He has never feared thunder and lightning since that night he learned how magnificent it can be.
Now, he’s kind of crazy the other way!
We parked on that gravel road and watched the storm advance, the lightning bolts from one particular cell coming directly toward our parking place. However, the first line of clouds passed over us without dropping any rain, and we were treated to the sensation of being exactly in the middle of a thunderstorm, with lightning bolts striking almost simultaneously on all four sides of us. The cell that seemed aimed at us kept advancing. Still no rain. A bolt hit just on the other side of the cypress slough, half a mile north of us. I began to count. Less than two minutes later, another bolt from that cell hit directly in front of us, only a couple hundred yards, but when it hit, it seemed to sizzle and flicker in one spot, a double strike so quick that the first one was still glowing when the second one hit right next to it. It actually blinded both of us for probably two minutes.
When we could finally see again, I felt raindrops coming in my window, and looked out. At the same time, Adam looked out his window, facing west, and exclaimed, “Stars!”
I thought he was talking about the effects of the blinding lightning, and agreed, “Yeah, I’m seeing stars, too!” But we grabbed me and pointed out his window.
I’ve never seen that before. Lightning bolts were striking out my side of the truck within a quarter mile, and stars were visible in the west, almost overhead! What a display!
We will now turn to Hymn Number 87: “My Lord Is Near Me All the Time.” The chorus proclaims: “I’ve seen Him in the Lightning, heard Him in the Thunder, felt Him in the Rain,” while verses state: “In the Lightning flash across the sky His mighty Power I see, and I know a God so great and strong can surely harbor me!” Amen.